Solar decathlon team raises roof of house for display on National Mall in Washington, D.C.

AUSTIN, Texas—Organized by the U.S. Department of Energy in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Solar Decathlon competition challenges university teams to design and build an 800-square-foot, solar-powered house to compete with 17 other entries in 10 events evaluating the ingenuity, energy efficiency and architecture of the house.

The SNAP House is under construction at 2006 Leona Street in Austin
The SNAP House is under construction at 2006 Leona Street in Austin, Texas.

The UT SolarD Team is under way in its construction of the SNAP (Super Nifty Action Package) House. A roof-raising ceremony took place Wednesday, July 6 on the construction site at 2006 Leona Street to mark the completion of the SNAP House’s structural components.

The UT SolarD Team has 45 undergraduate and graduate students from the School of Architecture and the colleges of Engineering and Liberal Arts. Although they are guided by faculty advisors Elizabeth Alford, Michael Garrison and Samantha Randall, the students are fully responsible for the design, fund raising and construction of the house.

The international competition challenges 18 universities to design and build a completely self-sufficient, solar-powered home. The teams build their houses on campus, then transport each building to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for reassembling in only four days. The houses will be judged in 10 solar contests, including the design of the living spaces, the production of hot water and the maintenance of thermal comfort. Each house will be on public display for tours Oct. 7-11 and Oct. 13-16.

To transport the SNAP House to Washington, D.C., the UT SolarD Team is implementing a design of four pre-fabricated modules, or SNAPs. Each SNAP fits on a standard drop-deck semi-truck for shipping and literally SNAPs together when in place. An innovative foundation system of rails and rollers allow each SNAP to be lowered off the truck onto the rails and rolled into place. The team tested the roller system on June 25 with complete success.

While SIPs (structurally insulated panels) comprise most of the house’s structure, a few steel posts bear the roof’s load where there are no SIPs
While SIPs (structurally insulated panels) make up most of the house’s structure, a few steel posts bear the roof’s load where there are no SIPs.

After the competition in Washington, D.C., the house will be transported back to Austin, Texas and donated to a local nonprofit. The UT SolarD Team’s goal is to educate the public about the benefits of solar-powered, energy-efficient and sustainable building practices.

The UT SolarD Team made design choices for the SNAP House beyond the competition requirements of solar power and energy efficiency by embracing the full spectrum of sustainable design. Their strategy includes the use of local materials, such as mesquite flooring, the use of recyclable materials including the exterior zinc cladding, the promotion of an indoor/outdoor lifestyle through a large back deck, the use of low-“volatile organic compounds”-emitting paints and non-toxic materials such as the area carpets, and the reduction of the urban heat island effect through the installation of a green grass roof.

To become a sponsor or to learn more about the UT SolarD Team and the SNAP House, visit the UT SolarD Web site.

For more information contact: Raina Tilden, UT SolarD Team, 512-791-6210, or Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.